Monday, June 27, 2011

Pasta Primavera

A few months ago, when spring-like vegetables were beginning to show up at the grocery store, but it was still rather chilly and rainy outside (and in these northern states, spring-like vegetables were still very much in hibernation), I made this pasta for book club. It was a big hit, and I suspect that now that it is mid-June, those of us in northern climates can obtain many of these ingredients locally – maybe even at farmer’s markets.

Gourmet published a “Passover Pasta Primavera” recipe in April 2008 that included a way to make the pasta from matzo meal, and in March 2011, rounded up “7 Fresh Ideas for Spring Pastas” and this one made the cut. I used standard linguine rather than making the matzo meal pasta, but otherwise I followed the recipe quite precisely, and I was pleased with the results.

I recommend cutting all the vegetables, but particularly the asparagus, at an angle. Big diagonal “coins” look nice and cook quickly, and take less effort than painstakingly cutting long skinny vegetables into a million small discs. Apparently in cooking lingo, I’m talking about “Bias Slicing” – and if you’d like an explanation, with photos, you can find that on the Better Homes and Gardens website.

Pasta Primavera
1 lb pasta (linguine or fettucine)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 lb asparagus, trimmed and thinly sliced, leaving tips whole
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise, then thinly sliced crosswise
1 cup frozen peas
6 scallions, thinly sliced, keeping white and pale green parts separate from greens
1/3 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano plus some for serving
1 tsp grated lemon zest

Cook in a pasta pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Reserve 1 cup cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander.

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then saute asparagus, zucchini, peas, white and pale green parts of scallions, and 1/2 tsp salt, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add 1/2 cup reserved cooking water to vegetables and cook, shaking skillet occasionally, until vegetables are just tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in pasta and scallion greens until just coated with sauce. Remove from heat and stir in cheese and zest. Stir in more reserved water if desired. Serve with additional parmesan.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spectacular Potato Salad

I have recently claimed that some recipes are too good to be kept to oneself, and this potato salad is one such recipe. As many people know, the folks at America’s Test Kitchen truly know what they are up to in the kitchen. I love (love, love, love) my copy of Cook’s Country, which is chock full of the kind of recipes that grandmothers pass down, but better. They took the recipes that lots of grandmothers passed down, compared them, took the best parts of each, tested ingredients and cooking times, and recommend here the foolproof (in my experience) version with the best results. In the case of potato salad, it seems straightforward enough, right? Cook up some potatoes, cook up some eggs, mix them together with mayonnaise and some chives or something, and call it a day.

Sure, sometimes that works. And sometimes the potatoes are too soft, the eggs are too smashed up, the mayonnaise becomes soupy, or the whole thing tastes like…. potatoes and eggs, sitting in mayonnaise.

Enter Cook’s Country, and their genius potato salad recipe. I made it this weekend as a barbeque contribution, and the host jokingly asked guests not to take too much, as she wanted to be sure to have leftovers. It’s that good. Follow this recipe closely and I feel that you can not go wrong.

All-American Potato Salad
2 lbs Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes
3 Tbsp dill pickle juice
1/4 cup finely chopped dill pickles
1 Tbsp yellow mustard
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 small red onion, minced
1 celery rib, chopped fine
2 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice

Place the potatoes in a large saucepan with cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a boil over high heat, add 1 tsp salt, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Drain the potatoes thoroughly, then spread them out on a rimmed baking sheet. Mix 2 Tbsp of the pickle juice and the mustard together in a small bowl, drizzle the pickle juice mixture over the potatoes, and toss until evenly coated. Refrigerate until cooled, about 30 minutes.

Mix the remaining 1 Tbsp pickle juice, the chopped pickles, 1/2 tsp salt, pepper, celery seed, mayonnaise, sour cream, red onion, and celery in a large bowl. Toss in the cooled potatoes, cover, and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes. Gently stir in the eggs, just before serving. The salad can be refrigerated in an air tight container for up to 2 days.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Hello, again.

Well. It's not like hundreds of people were ever reading this blog, but I do believe that we've had some loyal followers in the past. Perhaps if we're ever so apologetic about the large gap in our posts (yikes, our last post was in November!!), a few of you will continue to keep an eye on this effort. I won't bore you with the details about how busy we have been, but life has its way of throwing surprises at you, and before you know it, you look up and it's June of 2011. Imagine that!

Rest assured that I have been making delicious food, and I know that my one and only sister has been doing so, as well. In fact, I've made some food so delicious that I felt rather bad keeping it to myself. Good recipes should be shared, I believe. (Perhaps that sister of mine will share a recipe or two sometime soon, as well!) On that note, here's one that I made this morning, with outstanding results. It's from Molly Wizenberg's blog, Orangette, which I highly recommend. She actually wrote about it last spring, in a post called "You Deserve a Waffle" - and what a good point she makes, really. I made this waffle last summer, noted "Delicious!" on the scrap of paper on which it was printed, and tucked it away. Since then, I made some other waffle recipes that were dreadfully disappointing, and those experiences taught me not to take a good waffle recipe for granted. This is a seriously good waffle recipe. If you don't own a waffle iron, this recipe is good enough reason to purchase one.

A Great Make-the-Morning-of-Waffle
adapted from the "Waffle of Insane Greatness" recipe

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 cup whole milk (I used 2%, which worked fine)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup vegetable oil, such as canola
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar. Whisk well. Add the milk, buttermilk, vegetable oil, egg, and vanilla extract. Whisk to blend well, so that few (if any) lumps remain. Set aside to rest for 30 minutes.

Preheat a waffle iron. Follow your waffle maker's instruction manual, or aim for medium-high. (My waffle iron just has "on" and "off" - so I just plugged it in, and that worked fine). There's no need to grease the waffle iron.

Pour an appropriate amount of batter into your hot waffle maker - this takes some practice to determine, actually, but try not to put so much that it oozes out the sides. Cook until golden and crisp.